“Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
-my Great-Grandmother Colligan
This is the tale of Leigh, a stranger who quickly became a friend at O’Leary’s Irish pub in Terminal 3 of Abu Dhabi International, at 8am and two Stellas deep.
I’d been in the airport for 13 hours, and had two more until the departure of my connecting flight to Johannesburg. It had been a particularly unpleasant evening with the only airport hotel for non-visa holders booked to maximum capacity. After being saved from the piece of terminal floor upon which I’d set up a makeshift lean-to with my backpack and scarf, an incredibly kind airport worker named Magdalena brought me to the Muslim female prayer room next to the elevators in Terminal 4. I spent the rest of my night curled up in the corner of dark cocoon of a room, but I had to scram at sunrise because the shifts were changing, and clusters of female airport staff were coming in and out to do their makeup and gossip over tea in paper cups. I seemed to be a pretty unwelcome intrusion, so I decided to gather my things and venture into the heart of the airport.
The oldest one walked up to me. It was the Sunday afternoon of a three day music festival and everyone seemed keen to get outta dodge.
I was making my last trip from the campsite to my rental car. He looked as if he was playing a part he had only ever been told about but never given the script for. I watched him shake off his doubt and walk over to me, chest out and strutting, until he was standing right in front of me.
“Hello Madame,” he declared, “May I have some money? Please.”
Returning to New York City, after living in the third world
Her and I, we didn’t part on the best of terms. I absconded from my role as “struggling millennial writer cum waitress” in the unforgiving ecosystem of the Big Apple because, in the three years that I lived and worked in New York, I found myself calcifying over with cynicism at an alarming rate.
I served far more tables than I published articles and wrote poems, deflected daily catcalls with aplomb, learned to control my panic attacks while stuck on the N train in the tunnel under East River between 59th Street and Queensboro Plaza. But I was weary. I found myself doubting her wonder, her grandeur, her reputation as “the greatest city in the world.” What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I thriving? Fulfilling my potential? How was spending my early 20’s in NY turning me into such a curmudgeon? Continue reading “Reconciling with the city that never sleeps”→
When Anand is excited he speaks very quickly. His English is about 50% to begin with, and when he gets animated, each word leads into the next with an exotic cadence and I can no longer follow. I have to ask him to slow down and repeat himself before I can finally decipher his words, only to then declare them like mini-epiphanies.
“OH! Motorbike! I’m sorry, I thought you were saying ‘modernite!’”
“I don’t know ‘modernite’ .”
“I don’t either!”
And we laugh, because laughter, apart from tears, is one of the only sounds that transcends language. When we laugh together, it doesn’t really matter why. It matters that we are sharing something with one another. Something that we both understand to be positive, to be safe, to be indulged in collectively, like the juice of a coconut from a shady roadside stand on a blazing afternoon. Continue reading “Mornings in Chennai”→